August 2014 Newsletter

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Did You Miss Sage Summit 2014?

No worries! This year, Sage live-streamed Summit, and posted all the keynote speakers and event highlights. The keynote speaker videos are worth your time, trust me (see them all here)!

*Videos are no longer available from Sage


Sage Summit 2014 Review – The Good, the OK, and Some True Confessions

By Joanie Hollabaugh

I just got back from a LONG week at Sage Summit 2014 in Las Vegas. Couldn’t make it? No worries, this year Sage is webcasting keynote speakers and two days’ worth of highlights. The keynote speaker videos are worth your time, trust me! The highlights give you a snapshot of what is was like to attend (caveat being that they are purely marketing pieces).

The daily keynote speakers were indisputably the highlight of the week for me! Special shout out to Sage’s EVP of Customer Experience, Brad Smith (@SageThurry), who handled the celebrities smoothly, professionally, and was extremely well prepared (obviously, he read their books)!!

The OK: The Opening Keynote was for me, a composition in (a) terrific graphics and a great sound system, (b) an internal Sage memo on the ‘Untucked Shirts and Black Slacks’ dress code, and (c) ‘Ad-libbing the Teleprompter 101.’ Lots of Sage congratulating Sage that “We’re here for the Small to Medium Business (SMB) category!” Necessary, but not memorable. And then, Himanshu got on stage…(see True Confession #1).

Bloomberg columnist and investment expert, Pimm Fox, followed, deadpanning his address (while lamenting being “in Las Vegas, in the SUMMER!”), and promoting his upcoming radio program LIVE from the show floor.

True Confession #1:

I would listen to Himanshu Palsule (@himanshupalsule) recite Release Notes from Sage’s prolific product lines. Sage’s CIO for Europe and North America humanizes technology (oxymoron, right?) and is charming and authoritative all rolled into one.

Taking a selfie with 5,000 of his “new best friends” AND Jessica Alba? Priceless! He also did a nice job introducing the Technology Center at the show, teasing GoogleGlass and a 3D printer. More cowbell? Nah, more Palsule.alba-himanshu-selfie (Himanshu, I want a selfie with YOU!)

The Good: Wednesday’s keynote was my #2 favorite: Biz Stone, pioneer blogger, serial entrepreneur, and cofounder of Twitter and Jelly will speak about the impact of social media on business. Followed by Magic Johnson, chairman and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises, Jessica Alba, founder of The Honest Company, and Carey Smith, Chief Big Ass of Big Ass Solutions, shared their secrets for attracting and retaining great talent.

True Confession #2:

I will follow anything Biz Stone does in the future with unadulterated interest. I found him to be fascinating, creative, and really funny. His description that Twitter was (paraphrasing) “a toy that became important” proved to me that he takes innovation both lightheartedly and seriously — a good attitude for a serial entrepreneur. Of course, I downloaded his new Jelly app to my iPhone the same morning. As soon as I have a ‘stumper’ I am posting to the community!

The Disappointing : Some of the roadmap and keynote presentations felt like a rerun of Summit 2013. Sage, we’re ready for something new and SEXY in the 100 and 300 core modules. Have to give props, though to the progress they have made in adding integration options like the Paperless Environment, eTakeoff, MyCommunicator and Sage Payments.

The Great: Thursday morning’s keynote was FANTASTIC! Karl Rove, former deputy chief of staff and senior advisor to President George W. Bush, and Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary and longtime advisor to President Barack Obama mixed it up, shadow boxed and generally gave Sage EVP of Marketing, Gabie Boko (@gabieboko) a run for her money in this mash up of political/business opinions.

Followed by Jennifer Fleiss, cofounder and head of business development, Rent the Runway, Eric Ryan, cofounder, Method Products, Inc., and Ben Kaufman, founder and CEO of Quirky, Inc. provide those ‘a-ha’ moments of a start-up. Entertaining and self-deprecating, you can tell these success stories hit plenty of bumps along the way, making it relatable to the countless entrepreneurs in the audience.

The Ambivalent: The micro-sessions and show floor. Some were good, others were blatant book pitches, and some were too remedial. Session were also taped, but I haven’t found them online yet. Still in editing?

The Better: Sage always does a nice job with their multiple booth and demo spaces (shout out to Event Manager, Mark DeYoung), and the sponsors were given ample space to represent their integration products and services.

The Party: The party on Thursday night was a LOT of fun, with the band, Neon Trees, taking the stage and closing the event with high energy and their current pop hits.

The Wrap: Sage spent a considerable budget on upgrading the partner/user experience. While food was missing from the Business Partner event on Monday evening, and no Sage goodies given out or in my room like last year, overall, I came away impressed. There were many improvements from last year, the content was better than last year’s from a Business Partner standpoint (although I did hear some users were disappointed in the DECLINE of product training), and the tone was more fitting a global software publisher.

See you for Sage Summit 2015. To paraphrase Pimm Fox — in New Orleans, in the SUMMER!


Survey Says…Invest in Technology Strategically!

One of the perks of Ledgerwood Associates being a Select Sage Partner is access to industry opinions and trends. Sage regularly surveys more than 6 million small and mid-sized organizations in their client base, and then allows us to share it with YOU!

Sage just recently published a summary report on Information Technology Trends for North American Construction in 2014. The report also includes an analysis of the data from an independent construction consulting firm, FMI.

The report points out that information technology plays a key role in the productivity and profitability of construction companies, particularly related to recession required overhead cuts, and what to consider for future technology investments and work process changes. IT delivers large and fast returns, even with limited resources. However, strategic investment is the key to smartly improving processes, communication and attracting new customers. Report highlights follow:

Key Reasons for IT Investment

Here are some top objectives for contractors in 2014 and why they are investing in new technologies (including mobile):

  • Streamline processes
  • Improve communication and collaboration
  • Attract new customers
  • Control costs
  • Improve productivity
  • Track projects effectively
  • Produce accurate bids faster

Mobile Technology for Interconnectivity

“One of the biggest frustrations frequently raised by FMI clients is the amount of downtime, or nonproductive time that is allocated to “logging on” and relaying project information back to the home office.”

The surveyed construction professionals rated mobile technology as the highest importance of IT solutions for their business, with Cloud Computing coming in second. Contractors are adding tablets and smartphones to their business IT solutions. This means that shared access to information such as drawings, schedules, photos, and other documents is critical to streamlining project productivity and profitability.

Business Visibility Reporting

“The quality of business visibility reporting is of paramount importance. Simply collecting and tracking data is all for not if that data is not appropriately and effectively communicated to decision makers.”

Making decisions and improving company performance in real time requires instant up-to-date business visibility technology such as standardized reporting, performance dashboards, alert notifications, forecasting and other analytics that are all linked to mobile technology.

Obtaining New Business

“Attracting new customers should be on everyone’s to-do list as the economy improves. Lowering cost and raising quality will always be primary concerns for winning work.”

Faster and more accurate bidding, along with improved marketing and sales data gathered from client relationship management software can help to obtain, and keep new business. Part of this relationship building involves social technology, and though this area is growing in the construction industry, many companies are still a little slow to adopt the its use – nearly 60% of construction firms don’t use social technology. By establishing a social media regiment, construction companies can gain the upper hand over most of their competition.

How Construction Companies Use Social Technology:

27% Marketing to attract new customers and stay in touch with current customers
19% Stay abreast of industry news, trends, and upcoming events
19% Communicate news, events, projects, and company milestones
18% Develop new business by connecting with prospective clients
14% Share knowledge with employees, company partners, and industry peers
9% Track competitors, customers, and industry groups
5% Collaborate on projects

The Sage survey illustrates that a well-developed information technology system can have a huge impact on the growth of your business. Automated systems help to focus, standardize and and increase efficiency of operations such as time card tracking, payroll, purchasing, and bidding without adding highly compensated resources or tasks to your team.


How to Measure Business Performance With Information Technology

Investing in Information technology is only half of a solution to becoming a more productive and profitable company. Measuring, analyzing and reassessing the data is the other half of the solution. After all, how do you know where to go if you don’t have a map?

Managing your business performance is all about knowing what you want to track, examining the activity details, and comparing results over time. This information can actually help forecast your company’s future too. So, it is probably worth a little effort and time to developing your business road map.

Identify the Data to Support Company Goals

This is the first step in data collection & comparison. Identify your organizational mission, goals and objectives. For each department within your company, a strategy should be developed to measure data that aligns performance with the over all company goals. Identifying the right data to collect is essential to accurate performance measurements.

Be Consistent in Data Collection

This second step is about reporting. Once you have decided upon the correct type of data that needs to be collected, then it needs to be organized by a set of rules. How is it collected, and how often should it be reported are two critical components to reporting. Some reports need only be established on a monthly basis where as others need to have daily monitoring to allow your team to manage target goal completion.

Monitor the Data

The third step in measuring business performance is to monitor all the data and reporting you have established. Set up alerts to manage business operations, workflow, schedules, task completion, etc. By using real-time data and having automated alerts that help in monitoring performance, your company can become much more efficient and thus more profitable.

By using your information technology systems to collect AND measure data, decision making will not only be easier, but more timely. Respond to company needs more efficiently, improve customer relationships, and increase business performance more effectively.

 


Upcoming LAI Online Training and Networking Events:

 

Sep
12
Wed
Timberscan Paperless A/P Webinar @ GoToWebinar
Sep 12 @ 8:00 am – 9:00 am

Paperless Approval for Sage 300 CRE

TimberScan_Horizontal_LogoTimberscan is the ONLY Enterprise Content Management (ECM) System designed specifically for Sage 300 CRE (formerly Timberline)!

Join us for a live online webinar and learn how you can automate and simplify your A/P approval process.  Here’s an example of what construction companies are saying about Timberscan:

It streamlines the invoice approval process, and ensures proper coding of all invoices, eliminates lost invoices, and improves payment terms.

Tom – Model Group

This session will show you how your company can benefit from a highly automated paper-free approval system that is easy to use and designed specifically for Sage 300 CRE.


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Save Time with Project Work Center

So often, when working with a client to resolve a problem with one of their projects, I’ll jump to menu 6-12 Project Work Center and plug in the job number. The client then stops me to ask what I’m doing. I realize that I have another opportunity to train users about the usefulness of the Project Work Center!

Project Work Center was designed with project managers in mind, bringing all areas of the program preloaded with the job number, into one central work area. The best part of the project work center is that one gets a much more comprehensive view of the data related to a project. If you look at Purchase Orders, your first screen is a complete list of all the purchase orders for the project, from which you can select and drill down into each record. If you look at Subcontracts or Change Orders, in each case, you start with a complete list of all that data for the project and you can drill down from there! Open Receivable Invoices/Credits and you see all receivable invoices related to the job. Open Payable Invoices and you see all open payable invoices for the job. Any report related to a specific job is preloaded with the job number to ease the process. The right side of the project work center loads with a hot list of flagged items related to the project and summarized data about the project. The menu structure on the left side can be customized to trim out menu items that are not used by a particular user.

Project Work Center, originally created for project managers, can be an invaluable tool when performing Job Autopsies, or whenever anyone needs to deal with one project at a time.

Call your Certified Consultant for more information and training.

More about Sage 100 Contractor here. Call Ledgerwood Associates, 1-877-918-8301 today and we’ll match your needs to the best solution.

Submitted by Walt Mathieson, walt@mathiesonconsulting.com, Ledgerwood Sage 100 Consultant

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Year-End Update Planning and Version 14.1 Sneak Peak

The newest version of Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate (formerly Timberline) is scheduled to be released soon! In a change from years past, Sage will only be supporting the two most recent versions in the year-end update, version 13.1 and version 14.1. If you are presently running a version prior to 13.1, it’s time to begin planning your upgrade to one of these two versions. And if you’re already on version 13.1, you might consider an upgrade to 14.1 to take advantage of the hottest new features available in the new release:

  • SQL Gateway: A download available from Sage that lets you replicate your Sage 300 CRE data and consolidate multiple data folders into a single Microsoft SQL database. Modified Sage 300 CRE Crystal reports can be run on consolidated data, often with improved speed, and standard SQL reporting tools can be used by your internal experts.
  • Executive Dashboard: Not to be confused with the Desktop Homepage dashboards, this easy-to-use graphical dashboard can be made available to users with no Sage 300 CRE access and personalized by the user. It’s browser-based, so real-time key business performance information is available anytime and anywhere.
  • My Communicator for Outlook: Even users with no Sage 300 CRE access can combine the power of My Assistant and Microsoft Outlook to assign and track tasks and update Sage 300 CRE fields right from your email.
  • Sage Payment Solutions: Process check and credit card payments easily and securely, and create automatic entries to your Sage 300 CRE software at the same time!
  • Enhanced certified reporting: Now generate, print, or e-file weekly certified reports that comply with the Davis-Bacon Act for most states that does not accept the Department of Labor WH-347 federal certified report.
  • Microsoft Windows 8.1 compatible

For more information on these new features or for assistance in completing your upgrade, contact Ledgerwood Associates at 480-423-8300.

Submitted by Kyle Zeigler, Sage Senior Certified Consultant

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Employee v. Independent Contractor – A Cautionary Tax Court Ruling

The issue of whether workers should be classified as employees or independent contractors for federal employment tax purposes has been a source of controversy for decades. The saga continues. A recent Tax Court decision on the classification of a manager outlines seven factors to decide worker classification.

Seven Factors to Decide Worker Classification

The Tax Court considers these factors when deciding whether workers should be classified as independent contractors or employees for federal employment tax purposes:

  1. Degree of Control. When an employer exercises significant control over how a worker performs duties or has the right to do so, this factor indicates employee status. When there’s little or no control or right to exercise it, this factor indicates independent contractor status.Based on longstanding tradition, this factor is considered the most important. So, it’s often used as the tie-breaker in situations where there are an equal number of factors on both sides.
  2. Investment in Equipment and Facilities. When the worker covers most or all of the cost of equipment and facilities used for the job, this factor indicates independent contractor status. For example, say the worker performs his duties out of an office in his home using equipment (computer, printer and phone) that he pays for himself. In such a case, this factor would clearly indicate independent contractor status. On the other hand, if the employer provides most or all of the equipment and facilities, this factor would indicate employee status.
  3. Whether Worker Has Opportunity for Open-Ended Profit or Outright Loss. A worker who can make an open-ended profit through the strength of his or her own efforts or, alternatively, can suffer an outright loss on the job, is likely to be an independent contractor rather than an employee. For example, this would be the case when an outside sales person is paid by commission only.On the other hand, when the compensation arrangement dictates that the worker can only make a fixed profit and not suffer a loss, it indicates employee status. For example, this would be the case when the worker is paid a fixed amount for each day of work and the only significant job-related expense is the cost of commuting to and from the work site.
  4. Whether Worker Can Be Discharged. A worker who can be discharged is more likely to be an employee than an independent contractor.
  5. Whether Work Is Related to Employer’s Core Business. When the worker’s duties relate to the employer’s core business it indicates employee status, while work related to a tangential enterprise indicates independent contractor status.
  6. Permanency of Relationship between Employer and Worker. Lack of permanency indicates independent contractor status while permanency indicates employee status.
  7. Relationship Employer and Worker Believed they Were Creating. If the employer and the worker believed the same thing at the time they entered into their arrangement, courts rule this factor can indicate either employee or independent contractor status, depending on the facts. If the parties believed two different things, this factor may be thrown out.

Bottom Line

The Tax Court decision opened the door for the IRS to go after the employer for unpaid federal employment taxes, interest, and penalties. Therefore, the decision is yet another cautionary tale that failure to properly classify workers can be an expensive mistake for employers. In many cases, proactive planning can lock in tax-saving independent contractor status for workers. But, if nothing is done before an IRS audit takes place, it may be too late to achieve the desired tax-saving results. Consult your tax adviser if you have questions about worker classification issues.

Submitted by Bryan S. Eto, CPA, CCIFP, BEACHFLEISCHMAN, Beto@beachfleischman.com

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